With the completion of my Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work, I plan to work in a school setting, focused on the youth and adolescent populations. I have always found an interest in working with children because I see them as blank canvases. Even with children that grow up in difficult and sometimes unbearable circumstances, if caught early enough can be helped and directed in a more positive path. In regards to the School Systems, I feel that there is a lack of responsibility being taken for the way students are being treated and handled. The saying “ It takes a village to raise a child” has been forgotten and there is no one taking responsibility for the children who are falling through the cracks. There is no longer communication between the household and the school facilitators, no accountability. To counteract this lack of accountability I believe the practice of Cultural Competency would help repair and reconnect the School System with the families of students, giving children more social support to succeed in life.
In high school I attended a majority Black/Hispanic Catholic all-girls school, located in Downtown Brooklyn. I remember how hands on my teachers and principle were with my classmates and I. As an ‘A’ student I could recall my teachers having side conversations with me whenever my grades dipped to below a 90 because they wanted to make sure everything was fine with me. They were not scared to ask about my home situations because they were invested in my education as well as my personal growth. Parent/teacher conferences were extremely important to the teachers because this was the time for them to speak to students’ parents and give praise to students that deserved it and give their assistance to the students that needed it. Towards the end of my senior year a School Social Worker was hired and in my opinion it was one of the best additions to the school. She was always available and seemed to understand every problem that was brought to her. I think this was because her approach was very individualistic. She treated each situation differently and made sure to take into account the background of each person rather than just lump us all in to one category (minority, adolescent, female). She understood that we all had different backgrounds, learning styles, and personal situations and she acted accordingly. Teasley (2010) states, “School Social Work is a task-oriented field of practice, and practitioners are involved in multiple roles, including child welfare; administration; tutelage; leadership; monitoring; advocacy; practice collaboration; casework; mediation; group work; and individual, career, health, family and socialization counseling. School Social Workers are the liaison between the home, community and school”. Teasley (2010) goes on to state “Culturally Competent School Social Workers are those who are equipped with a knowledge base and skill set appropriate for practice in a designed environment with considerations of community ethnic and racial group makeup, status, history, values, social practices, resources, strengths and risk and protective mechanisms to promote healthy developmental and educational outcomes for children and youths. (p. 92).
I was privileged to be able to attend my high school, because my parents could afford that type of education. The majority of my friends that I attended junior high school with did not have the same opportunity and ended up going to their local public high schools. I heard many horror stories about how the class sizes were too big for teachers to connect with the students, the administration only cared about test scores, not the true learning or growth of students and the blind eyes the faculty took to children in traumatic situations such as poverty, and family problems that lead to behavioral issues. I believe that with the training of Culturally Competent faculty members within a Culturally Competent educational institution, these oppressive factors can be mitigated. The same “privileged” opportunities that I received in my private school should be shown within all schools regardless of population backgrounds and geographical locations. As ideal as it is to conduct a school on the basis of Cultural Competency sometimes there are barriers such as those previously mentioned that make it difficult to apply. This is in accordance with Teasely (2010), who states, “Barriers to Culturally Competent School Social Work practice tasks vary from one geographical location to another. For example it is reasonable to contend that in large, urban school districts with high minority student populations who struggle with concentrated poverty, special education overrepresentation, an low standardized test scores there may be a closer administrative and political oversight which many become a barrier to School Social Worker advocacy, client empowerment and other interventions” (p.92). In cases such as these, as a School Social Worker I would allow parents and students to help decrease the struggles. Allowing minority groups to be involved in there own growth process would allow facilitators to be open minded and lend a hand to the progression of their Cultural Competency. “Social Workers are urged to challenge institutions to increase participation and decision making by marginalized groups and respond more effectively to the needs of wider segments of the population (Williams, 2006, p. 214).